Too many of us leave our lives-and, in fact, our souls, behind when we go to work
Arianna Huffington (2014)
Have you ever considered what doing your job takes from you? When you compare yourself to a younger version of you, will the amount you have given to your work be evident? You are, of course, complicit in the giving; you willingly go above and beyond and feel wrung out at the end of the day because you probably recognise that this is the necessary cost of helping or caring. You cannot deliver your job well without that cost, and while you experience the consequences of the giving every day, you bounce back and return to the job because you are driven to support.
We have all met colleagues who have nothing left to give – the tank is empty and, as one professional said, they are ‘turning up to appointments and knocking on the door with a sponge, hoping no-one is in on the other side as they had nothing left to give’. The only option when you feel like this is to withdraw emotionally, to stop connecting and instead focus your energies on protecting the valuable resources you have left. While we accept that the care or service quality we offer is compromised when we do this, but what choice do we have? Stay at work in this compromised form or stay at home sick and affect our colleagues further?
And yet the impact of operating in this reduced and emotionally worn-out state means our bodies enter a stress reaction, ready for action but jumpy, with our actions being less controlled and more reactive, primitive in their nature.
The cost of care
If we therefore acknowledge that the cost of care is a personal one, to you, then in order to balance the impact on you, you need to refill the tank. Restorative resilience sessions are designed to do just that.
The sessions will give you time to stop, to breathe, and to consider how you are turning up to your workplace. Our work can often put us into a compromised state of mind where we are decision-making and analysing risk at an intensive rate without the opportunity to consider what we are bringing into that situation.
The sessions enable you to access a less primitive way of thinking and allow you to be engaged with your neo-cortex, a part of the brain that holds all our modern learning and information (Kahneman, 2011). By slowing down your thinking you will operate in a less stressed state and be able to evaluate your circumstances more clearly.
The sessions also enable you to learn what your vulnerabilities are, how you build on your strengths and develop resilience to future stressors. This means that you are able to recognise your own stress or anxiety triggers and develop strategies to manage this in order to inoculate yourself for the future. Sessions reduce stress and burnout, and increase compassion satisfaction – the pleasure you get from doing your job – meaning you feel able to be much more engaged with your job and your workplace.
Yes, there is a cost to caring, but it is a workplace myth that tells us we have to bear that cost alone.
Dr Sonya Wallbank is the author of a new training resource from Pavilion Publishing, due to be published on 15 March 2016, which underpins the restorative resilience model of supervision, The Restorative Resilience Model of Supervision: An organisational training manual for building resilience to workplace stress in health and social care professionals.
You can see her interview here:
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Huffington A (2014) Thrive. Ebury Publishing, London. UK.
Kahneman D (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin, London.